I remember my first car like it was 30 years ago: a lemon-colored 1970 Ford Maverick with a three-speed on the column.
I bought my ticket to freedom for $300 in dishwashing money during the summer of 1986. And the banana Maverick sat in my yard for another two months while I saved up the $1,400 for auto insurance.
But once I got road bound, there was no stopping me. I mean the Maverick occasionally left me stranded, but don’t all cars do that? I was 17 and didn’t really know any better.
What the Maverick lacked in air conditioning it made up for with a few holes in the floor. The AM-only radio kept me from wasting time fielding an eclectic range of musical choices.
This car was a dream. As in I dreamed somebody would steal it so I could get a different car.
Then one day, after three months on the road, the Maverick’s engine went to sleep and didn’t wake up. I literally abandoned the car along Route 11 in Kirkwood, N.Y.
Disillusioned, I momentarily considered the merits of walking. Then I remembered my job was 12 miles away. I soon ran into a friend more than willing to help me fall in love with a new ride: a 1978 Pontiac Firebird.
Yes! This was going to be my new personality – fast car guy. And for just $800. What a bargain! This road warrior had a 378 engine, or some big number like that.
So we struck a deal and went to get the car … and it wouldn’t start. Not a great sign. But the Firebird actually performed well during the time I drove it. The only persistent problem being a leaky power steering line that had me adding fluid every few days.
The main problem was my new image. Fast car guy was more of a police officer magnet than the chick magnet I was going for.
In seven months, I think I was randomly pulled over five times. Finally, I realized, fast car had to go.
There were many other cars to follow through the years, leading to the sport utility vehicle I now drive. I’ve been thinking about my vehicle-owning history lately in light of Ford’s news that it is working on a self-driving vehicle to go to market by 2021.
Self-driving cars… wow. This is an issue I’ve been aware of, but haven’t paid much attention to the details.
The cars will have no steering wheels or pedals and be in operation for ride-hailing and ride-sharing services.
It is unclear if the car will eventually become available as a consumer vehicle, but Ford is dedicating an entire branch of its company to the self-driving car project.
The main cause of motor vehicle collisions is human error. This is why car collisions are called accidents. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), the death rate in motor vehicle collisions involving newer car models has declined from 48 to 28 deaths per million cars.
This is because the newer model cars have upgraded safety features such as automatic braking.
The way to further reduce death rates, maybe to near zero, is via self-driving vehicles. I never thought this would happen in my lifetime, but 2021 isn’t that far away. The obvious drawback is a loss of control.
Would you drive a self-driving vehicle? I think I would -- as long as it fit my image.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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